LATEST FLAME : A new generation is getting fired up over cigars. But when the smoke clears, will health concerns win out over fashion? : Did You Know?

* Taxes: The federal tax on cigarettes is 1.2%, while the federal tax on cigars is 0.11%. Manufacturers pay the federal tax.

In California, the state tax for cigars is 31.2%. It’s higher in Washington, Montana and Idaho but lower in states that have a large tobacco business, such as North Carolina, which grows tobacco, and Connecticut, which makes cigar wrappers.

The state tax funds health, education and fire prevention programs related to smoking. The retailer pays the state tax and passes the cost to the consumer, who also pays a sales tax of 7.75% in Orange County.

Nationally, smokers pay $12 billion a year in taxes.


* Prices: The cost of buying a box of Alfred Dunhill of London cigars in California is 13% higher in California than in Boston, Chicago, Dallas or Houston:


Box of 25 Costa Mesa vs. Boston Canary Island Corona Extras $149 $129 Aged Dominican Altamiras (tube): 164 142


* Sales: Cigar sales have increase for the first time since 1970, representing along with pipes and loose tobacco, 6% of the $47 billion a year tobacco market; cigarettes comprise 94% of the market, according to the Tobacco Institute.

For the past 2 1/2 years, dealers have found cigars in short supply because manufacturers can’t provide them fast enough, due to a worldwide shortage of fine tobacco and a rise in demand, says Norm Sharp of the Cigar Assn. of America, based in Washington, D.C.

* Laws: On Jan. 1, one of the nation’s toughest anti-smoking laws took effect in California, making it illegal to light up in most enclosed workplaces and virtually all restaurants. Smoking is still allowed in private smokers’ lounges, most hotel rooms and lobby areas and bars, including those in restaurants, but only until Jan. 1, 1997.

* Smokers: Out of the 2,000 people who attended a $150-per-person smoker dinner sponsored by Cigar Aficionado magazine in Century City in mid-October, half were in their 20s and 30s, according to Niki Singer, the magazine’s senior vice president.

* Health: “No one has to smoke, therefore it’s best if they did not,” says Dr. Robert Eagan, a lung cancer specialist at St. Joseph Hospital.

* Date of the Great American Smokeout: Nov. 16, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. To participate, call (714) 751-0441.